So far, the Braves have signed Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann on major league deals, they’ve tendered contracts to their entire 40-man, designated for assignment and subsequently traded Adam McCreery and Ricardo Sanchez, and signed some minor league FAs like Pedro Florimon.
It’s also important to note that while they chose to part ways with McCreery and Sanchez, they have protected players who have not seen Atlanta like Patrick Weigel, Jacob Webb, Alex Jackson, Huascar Ynoa, and Grant Dayton. So while McCreery was a guy who pitched in Atlanta, they felt like those guys were worth 40-man spots. That should lead us to believe that especially Weigel, Webb, and Dayton could play a role on the major league roster next year.
At any rate, what would the roster and payroll look like if they decided this was the end of their offseason? Well, you can’t do that exactly since we simply don’t have a RF. So let’s just say they sign a placeholder, league average-ish right fielder for around $10M a year. Let’s call him Mick Narkakis. But from there, you’d have a $127-128M payroll according to our man Stu as he tracks the Braves’ payroll and speculates arb raises. I say this because, at minimum, they’re going to need to do something about right field , even if it’s not a big acquisition. It’d be malpractice otherwise. A $128M opening day payroll would be about where the end of year payroll ended up last year according to Spotrac. That includes the deadline acquisitions of O’Day, Brach, Gausman, Duda, etc.
We would set sail with the following roster, and if AA’s preferred lineup beginning with Acuna, Donaldson, and Freeman is indeed Snit’s preferred lineup, you would be looking at something like this:
I think it’s important to train your eye to the SS spot on the roster. It’s easy to look at Dansby Swanson and think that we’re in for more of the same, the .243/.314/.369 career line that he’s produced so far. But that’s simply not going to happen. If he continues a sub-.700 OPS, you would have to assume that Johan Camargo and Dansby will switch spots in some capacity. So whether it’s Dansby or Johan, the lineup deepens considerably.
Otherwise, you do have a hole at the cleanup spot based on the traditional view of a lineup. They could do things differently, of course, like hitting someone else in the #2 spot with Donaldson hitting clean-up, and that would be a more traditional lineup that gives you a classic clean-up hitter. But as it sits, a Mick Narkakis-type would not give you much punch in the 4-spot, $10M is not going to buy you any more power, and they don’t have anyone else to put in there. After that, though, the lineup looks a little deeper than last year with Albies, the shortstop, the catcher, and Ender rounding out the lineup. It’s only fair to note that Austin Riley could play himself into an outfield spot, thus allowing the Braves to use said Mick Narkakis money elsewhere, but I don’t think it’s wise for a team looking to contend deep into the playoffs to do that. With that said, Riley did finish strong in AAA, hitting .300/.347/.609 in 116 PAs in August, so who knows what might happen in Spring Training.
With Duvall tendered a contract, I would think that Duvall will be your backup outfielder barring a trade. I once again use Dansby and Johan interchangeably because whoever hits will play SS, and whoever doesn’t will undoubtedly be on the bench. And if they both hit, then you’ve really got an impressive bench. I don’t hate the bench.
Folty made the All-Star team, finished 8th in the Cy Young vote behind such guys as deGrom, Scherzer, Nola, and Corbin and ahead of Jon Lester. He finished 6th in NL ERA, 7th-lowest WHIP, 5th-fewest hits per 9, and 6th-most K’s per 9. If he was a few years older and more experienced, you might be inclined to mistake him for Patrick Corbin. I say that to say that Folty pitched like an Ace(TM) last year, and it would be difficult to think that he hasn’t turned a corner.
Something happened with Gausman after the deadline where he lowered his FIP 80 points from his work in Baltimore along with lowering his ERA 156 points to 2.87 in 59.2 IP. Maybe a ground ball pitcher can use a quality defense behind him? His BABIP reducing about 50 points between his two stops perhaps confirms that.
Newcomb finished with a 3.90 ERA and threw 164 IP, something only 28 pitchers in the NL actually did. And while he’s not Jon Lester, he’ll be 26 and a new pitching coach may help that 4.4 BB/9 move a little closer to league average. With our defense, there’s simply no justification for our pitchers to continue to avoid the strike zone. Old Man Teheran, all of 28 years old next year, would have less upside than you’d like from a #4 starter but he matches up with other #4 starters like Washington’s Tanner Roark, New York’s Steven Matz, and Philly’s Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez. Philly, though, may end up with someone like JA Happ before the end of the week. The problem is we don’t have a second pitcher like Scherzer or Corbin or Syndergaard or deGrom unless one of Gausman or Newcomb turn the corner.
But barring a trade, no one in the NL — and I mean no one, save maybe the Dodgers or Cubs— has any 5th starter that will be as good as the winner of the Soroka, Gohara, Fried, and Touki 5th starter competition. I don’t care what any team does for the remainder of the offseason. It’s also important to note that every team has to have a 6th starter, a pitcher who whether sporadically or consistently has to cover several starts. For even playoff teams, they might be bringing someone up from the minors who was delivering pizzas the week before. As an example, Washington threw Erik Fedde for 50 IP, 11 starts, and a 5.54 ERA as their “6th” starter. Milwaukee had two guys rotating as their 6th starter with ERAs in the mid-4s. Just about every team in baseball doesn’t have 5 guys making 30 starts, and even if you did, you’re short. We won’t be short. That’s a 4-5+ game swing.
I couldn’t tell you who will win, but if Luiz Gohara is healthy, you’d have a hard time beating him. And if Mike Soroka is pitching well, you’d have a hard time keeping both of them out of the rotation should you have more of the same from Julio.
1. A.J. Minter
2. Arodys Vizcaino
3. Darren O’Day
4. Jonny Venters
5. Chad Sobotka
6. Jesse Biddle
7. Dan Winkler
8. Loser of Rotation Competition
9. Loser of Rotation Competition
10. Loser of Rotation Competition
11. Shane Carle
12. Sam Freeman
13. Bryse Wilson
Love the depth. Absolutely love it. Hate the leverage. There is no one in this bullpen I trust to come in to pitch to Yelich, Cain, and Aguilar or Turner, Bellinger, or Muncy — regardless of inning — right now. Could that change with the current group? Absolutely. But the Braves seem to agree with this and want another reliever, undoubtedly a high leverage reliever. The easy but inefficient answer is to trade 5 years of control of one of your pitching prospects for 2-3 years of a very inexpensive reliever like Raisel Iglesias, and that wouldn’t make a dent in payroll much.
Does the team win the division if even Philly adds a big bat? Yeah, I think so? Do we win our first playoff series since 2001? I’m not so sure about that one.